Known as the Feast of Sacrifice or “big Eid,” it is one of the two major religious festivals of Islam. The other, Eid al-Fitr, occurs at the end of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting.
In Pakistan, the faithful crowded into mosques and prayer grounds on Saturday to offer prayers and sacrifice goats and cows.
Security was tight, as religious extremists have carried out bombings across the country in recent years.
“Today, we are here to offer Eid prayers,” said Saleem Ahmed at a ceremony in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, Reuters reported. “The security arrangements were very good. May Allah approve our prayers.”
Eid al-Adha commemorates the Koranic tale of the Prophet Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Ishmael as an act of obedience to God. Before he could carry out the sacrifice, God provided a ram as an offering.
In the Christian and Jewish version of the story, Abraham is ordered to kill another son, Isaac.
Muslims celebrate the Adha, Arabic for “sacrifice,” by slaughtering domestic animals like sheep and distributing the meat to the poor, as a symbol of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his only son.
The result is a booming preholiday trade in goats, cows and sheep. In Pakistan, a country of about 208 million people, nearly 10 million animals, worth more than $3 billion, are slaughtered during the two days of Eid al-Adha, according to the Pakistan Tanners’ Association.
Observers are also required to make donations to charities.
Eid al-Adha marks the climax of the hajj, the sacred journey to Mecca undertaken by about two million Muslims each year.
It is one of the five pillars of Islam, and should be undertaken by every Muslim who can afford to do so.
In Afghanistan, Eid al-Adha is being celebrated amid apprehension in the capital, Kabul, where a string of suicide attacks has killed more than 200 people this year.
In his celebration address, President Ashraf Ghani called on the Taliban to accept peace, according to The Associated Press. The group has been fighting to drive out the international forces backing the Afghan government and restore strict Islamic rule to the country.
“It is time for the armed opposition of Afghanistan to choose whether they are fed on the milk of the mothers of this country, and are inspired by this nation, or whether they are the tools for disunity, chaos, used by outsiders,” he said.
The Taliban leader, Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, said in an earlier speech that peace could come once foreign forces left Afghanistan.
Mohammad Dawood, one of the Afghans whose lives have been shaped by four decades of war, told The A.P.: “I want peace and security. We want a peaceful country.”
For those who made the pilgrimage to Mecca, this is the most dangerous point in the journey, with thousands streaming back and forth between the pillars and the Kaaba.
In previous years, many have been wounded or killed by stones thrown during the ritual.
The hajj comes full circle with pilgrims going to the Grand Mosque for final prayers before returning to their families and continuing to observe the remainder of Eid al-Adha.
For the final three days of the hajj, pilgrims sleep in a large tent valley called Mina, and for three days take part in a symbolic stoning of the devil.
Mina is also where more than 2,400 people were killed two years ago in a stampede and a collision of two crowds that crushed people under the force.
The Saudi government has since widened some roads in Mina to try and improve the safety of the hajj. More than 100,000 security forces are managing the hajj this year.
This year, according to reports, 2.35 million pilgrims from around the world performed the Hajj.
During the last three days of the hajj, male pilgrims shave their heads and remove the white garments worn during the hajj. Women cut off a small lock of hair in a sign of spiritual rebirth and renewal.